Religion and Politics in America
An Encyclopedia of Church and State in American Life [2 volumes]
by Frank J. Smith, Editor
July 2016, 899pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-435-1
$218, £168, 190€, A299
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eBook Available: 978-1-59884-436-8
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All law is founded on morality, which in turn is often based on religious views, making knowledge of religion key to understanding politics and government.

There has always been an intricate relationship between religion and politics. This encyclopedia provides a comprehensive overview of the interrelation of religion and politics from colonial days to the present.

Can a judge display the Ten Commandments outside of the courthouse? Can a town set up a nativity scene on the village green during Christmas? Should U.S. currency bear the “In God We Trust” motto? Should public school students be allowed to form bible study groups? Controversies about the separation of church and state, the proper use of religious imagery in public space, and the role of religious beliefs in public education are constantly debated. This work offers insights into contemporary controversies regarding the uneasy intersections of religion and politics in America.

Organized alphabetically, the entries place each topic in its proper historical context to help readers fully grasp how religious beliefs have always existed side by side—and often clashed with—political ideals in the United States from the time of the colonies. The information is presented in an unbiased manner that favors no particular religious background or political inclination. This work shows that politics and religion have always had an impact on one another and have done so in many ways that will likely surprise modern students.


  • Enables readers to understand why religion and politics are necessarily interrelated
  • Demonstrates how today's heated controversies about the delicate balance between religious beliefs and government policies in America are not new but have existed since the foundation of the nation
  • Represents an ideal resource for students writing position papers regarding the separation of church and state (or lack of)
Frank J. Smith, PhD, DD, is president of Tyndale International University, Los Angeles, CA. He teaches at Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, GA, as a full-time assistant professor. He also serves as Minister of Atlanta Presbyterian Fellowship, an urban ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in Atlanta, GA. Among his publications are The History of the Presbyterian Church in America: The Silver Anniversary Edition and an article on American Presbyterianism and the Cold War.


Best Reference Titles of 2016, Religion and Philosophy—Library Journal, March 2, 2017


"It is a valuable resource for public and private libraries and homeschoolers, as well as churches and other houses of worship for their libraries."—ProtoView, August 31, 2016

"Recommended as a reference to survey and introductory courses on religion and politics in America and to general readers interested in how religious and civic groups engage in political activity."—Booklist, November 7, 2016

"This user-friendly compendium covers a wide array of topics. . . . [T]he work is an approachable and useful means to enrich one's understanding of the relationship between religion and politics. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels."—Choice, January 4, 2017

"This encyclopedia is particularly appropriate for libraries and research centres serving religious communities, congregations, high school students, undergraduates and graduate students. It is suitable for large, comprehensive general collections, as well as collections focused on U.S. history, politics, and religion. Though the historical perspective is largely Euro-centric, the encyclopedia provides a manageable, one-stop resource on concepts of religion and politics in the USA and can serve as a springboard to further research on the mosaic of identities and intellectual traditions in that nation."—Reference Reviews, September 14, 2017
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